Saturday, March 30, 2013

I Want to Live Again

“I want to live again. I want to laugh; I want to love; I want to roll those dice.” – song lyrics by Trisha Yearwood

While these song lyrics are about a broken love affair it occurs to me that they apply to any situation in which your heart, body or soul has been broken. At some point, in every cancer survivor’s journey, you reach that point when you realize “I want to live again.”

I’m not sure when that was for me. I never had any intention of dying. But when I first heard this song I knew it meant more to me than surviving cancer. It meant a new beginning; starting over. My life didn’t immediately start over. It wasn’t an instantaneous transformation where one day I was diagnosed with cancer and the next day I suddenly had such insight and clarity into life that I quit my job and changed my lifestyle. No, starting over was (and is) slow and gradual. But I have come to recognize the changes that needed to be made along with the changes that occured simply because.

When I was first diagnosed I was in such shock that I could only focus on the “here and now” of my daily routine.  By January 2008 I had finished my law school courses, had my first chemotherapy treatment, and ended my job. I spent 2008 in treatment, studying for the bar exam, and working part-time contract jobs at my former place of employment. By January 2009, I had started my recovery from treatment, passed the bar exam, and took a part-time job at my former institution, in my previous department.

Yes, as part of my journey I clung to the past. I had no direction. I was lost, hurt, and broken. I went back to what I knew, and it helped me heal. I was there until it was time to move on. And now I’m in the place that my heart longed for even before I was diagnosed with cancer. God has a way of giving us our heart’s desire.

In addition to the perfect vocation, I have started to share my story through this blog. I have found a balance with part-time work (that pays) and the ability to care for my health needs as well as supporting my husband in his busy schedule. And I have time to write.

According to the calendar, spring arrived here in New England ten days ago. Passover started on Monday at sundown. And Easter is tomorrow. In some ways, this time of year is really the beginning of the New Year. Spring brings with it warmer temperatures, green grass, and flowers. Passover is a time to remember a new start for the Jewish people. Easter brings the celebration of new life through Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

As I reflect on these events I am reminded of my own new beginning. And while I don’t have a specific date when I first began to live again, I celebrate my life with laughter, love, and even take chances with an occasional “roll of the dice.”

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Even FaceBook

This past weekend I had the privilege of meeting up with some friends that I haven’t seen in years. In fact, this weekend was a weekend filled with great joy and celebration. You see, it was my mother’s birthday. And this birthday was significant to her because her own mother had passed away before reaching this particular anniversary. So, I had planned months ago to be with her on her special day.

Her actual birthday was Saturday, so I had mentally made plans to drive down for the weekend; spend the day with her, have cake and presents with my sister that evening, spend the night so I could go to church with her the next day. And then I got an invitation on FaceBook to attend a coffee house featuring Simple Truth.

Simple Truth is two very dear friends of mine. Back in the early 80’s there were five of us who made up the group Trinity Unlimited. As life happens we all moved away from each other, except for Debbie and Jodi. They stayed together, playing coffee houses and special events at area churches. They moved to Maine and continued their music ministry. At some point they became Simple Truth. They are often joined by Pam, another of the original group, when Pam is home.

It turned out Simple Truth was playing at a coffee house in the same county in which my mother lives. And they were performing Friday evening! Suddenly my plans changed. I took some time off from work so that I could drive down earlier on Friday and take my mother to the coffee house. Our reunion Friday evening was filled with love, laughter and a lot of hugs. It seems that it has been too many years.

I am often struck by God’s timing. In fact, I had been thinking about that very topic on my drive to Connecticut. We (Debbie, Jodi and I) even talked about how we reconnected through FaceBook. I shared how several times I had seen that they were performing nearby but for some reason or another I was not able to make the event. We acknowledged that timing is more than “meant to be;” it is always in God’s timing. We joked that God even uses FaceBook.

I have written about similar “meant to be” happenings in my life, and I truly believe it is in God’s timing that events unfold to bring me together with someone I love. One of my very first OMG events with FaceBook was soon after I had joined. Two of my best friends had been hounding me to join FaceBook and events unfolded that prompted me to set up an account, but I was extremely tentative with sending and accepting “friend” requests.

Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s I had a friend who was very dear to me. We last saw each other in 1982. I went away to college, and life took us away from each other. Over the years I would occasionally be reminded of that friendship; an event, the name coming up in conversation, or a mutual friend asking if I knew what had happened to our friend. Most of what I knew, if anything, was based on “last I heard” rumors.

One morning, about four months after joining FaceBook, I had the idea to search for my friend. I found several people with the same name. I weeded out those with the wrong middle initial and ended up with three profiles. I scrutinized all three. (Is that stalking?) I looked at pictures. I read through the list of friends to see if there were any mutual friends or someone I recognized. I looked at the reported hometown. I then took a guess, based on one of those “last I heard” rumors.

I started with a message, basically asking “are you who I think you are?” As I hit “send” I prayed that I would hear back. Even if the answer was “No, I am not who you are looking for,” I wanted to know. The message I got back a couple hours later read: Is that your sister Priscilla with you in your profile picture?

Yes, God even uses FaceBook.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on FaceBook I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor.

P.S. My friend and I have not had a face-to-face reunion yet. That, too, is in God’s hand.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Ellen Show

My friend Jodi is the skull and cross bones mom. Her blog can be found at She once wrote a post entitled A Quick Guide to Getting Through It.... Upon reading that post I immediately thought: Ellen Degeneres.
You’re probably thinking: Ellen? No, I did not give up my faith to follow an American icon and funny woman. But I love Ellen. I loved Ellen before she became a talk show host. In fact, I was a faithful follower of her sitcom. She is to the monologue what Jennifer Saunders is to U.K. comedy. The best!
And Ellen kept me grounded. I pretty much spent the month of November 2007 at the hospital with doctors, specialists, and having tests. There were many early mornings spent in waiting rooms (before her talk show was moved to the 4 p.m. slot). I would sit and watch her show, and laugh.
Ellen is a beautiful person, and quite, sincerely generous. She didn’t know of my problems, but if she did she would have given me a big, genuine hug. You see, sharing my morning with Ellen kept my mind off the horrors of what I was facing. Also, her show meant that life outside of me continues. She still films her show. People still watch. Routine still happens. There was something, life beyond my cocoon of fear.
So, what got me through it? God. Definitely God. And friends. And the Ellen Show.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Winter's End

Snow gently falls
Covering the trees
Like frosting on a cake
He stands tall and fierce
Against the harshness of winter
And the cold of being alone

Buried deep within the ground
The frozen earth protects the seeds
With memories of summer past
Summers of sunshine
When laughter fell like rain
At just the right moments

The sunrise promises spring
With its warmer days
And the newness of growth
He breathes in the life
That gives hope for tomorrow
And warms his tired bones

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on FaceBook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Grace of Eggs

I walked into work one morning and found these eggs on my desk. I immediately knew who they were from, and had to laugh. My laughter was brought on by joy at so many levels. You see, the eggs were from my friend, and are her way of saying “thank you.” (Though she does not have to give me eggs for me to understand). I know she is thankful for our friendship, as I am of hers. But her “thank you” goes beyond mere friendship and that can never be repaid. Nor do I want her to even try. That’s what friends are for.

Eggs have a lot of meaning besides a kind gesture of thanks. Eggs are the beginning of life. Eggs are a symbol of Easter, and the coming of spring. Eggs are about fresh starts and new growth. In March we are going into spring, when it is a time of new growth. And this year, Easter is in March. I suppose I could write about any of these meanings of eggs and their symbolism, but I want to write about friendship.
My friend is going through a difficult time right now. She is the primary caregiver to her mom, who was recently diagnosed with metastasized, Stage IV breast cancer. I know what it’s like to be diagnosed with breast cancer. And I understand the fear of the unknown. What I don’t understand is what it is like to be a terminal patient’s caregiver. I don’t know what it’s like to be diagnosed with more cancer – of any kind. There is nothing I can do for her or her mom, other than be her friend. (And I would be her friend whether she was facing this challenge or not).
I was fortunate to receive healing. I am coming up on five years post-treatment. I have educated myself about breast cancer and the various diagnostic indicators. Each diagnosis is unique. Each treatment is unique. We share some of the same experiences. And yes, even chemotherapy can be funny. I cannot say to a recently diagnosed woman, “oh, you’re going to be fine because of . . .” That’s not true. I can only offer hope. I can quote statistics. But remember, if 70% have a positive outcome it means 30% did not.
Beyond that, I can share my story. My story is one of healing and hope. It is also a story of grace. It is about finding God’s grace along the way. Whatever you are facing God will meet you. He takes us in His arms whether we are scared and broken, or full of joy and life. What I offer my friend is the invitation to ask for grace. You don’t need to go looking for it. You don’t need to be in the “right place” to find it. You don’t need to “do something” for it to arrive. If you ask for it, it will find you.
And that’s what these eggs mean to me. They are full of grace, and friendship, and love. Be blessed.

If you woiuld like to follow me on FaceBook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor.